For Want Of A Nail

Starship Farragut

This is an episode of a fan-made series whose storyline may be invalidated by later official studio productions.

Stardate 4847.3: Farragut arrives in the Solon system, home to a society where scholarship and the study of history have attained a level of importance beyond anything in the Federation. The Solonai are now making diplomatic overtures toward the Federation, and Captain Carter and his crew have the honor of making first contact – despite Science Officer Tacket’s misgivings about unusual background radiation near the planet. When they go to beam down, though, Carter and his small landing party find themselves not on an alien world, but on Earth, specifically Pennsylvania, 1776, on the eve of Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River. Their attempts to stay out of history’s way are thwarted when a member of the landing party is shot by a revolutionary’s musket; now, contrary to staying out of history’s way, Carter now has an audience with General Washington himself, and worries that anything he says could alter history. In orbit, Tacket and Chief Engineer Smithfield grow increasingly suspicious of the Solonai’s lack of concern about their missing landing party…and their lack of knowledge of how to get them back.

Watch Itstory by John Broughton
screenplay by John Broughton & Mark Hildebrand
directed by Mark Hildebrand
music by Hetoreyn

Cast: John Broughton (Captain John T. Carter), Michael Bednar (Commander Robert Tacket), Holly Bednar (Lt. Commander Michelle Smithfield), Paul R. Sieber (Lt. Prescott), Amy Sepan (Dr. Holley), Mark Hildebrand (General George Washington), Sean Mullin (Washington’s Aide), Jamie Hanna (Caleb), John Kirby (Alondar), Trey Thomas (Batarus), David Sepan (Baker), Bob McDonough (Galway), Jake Azachi (Akiva), Bruce Dennis (Hayes), Eric Lund (Michaels), Case Aiken (Anderson), Ron Gates (Gates), Dean Rogers (Morris), John Lenwell (Adams), Robin Madel (Solonai Tech 1), Richard Sprague (Fowler / Solonai Tech 2), Kevin Barber, Paula Barber, Adam Beal, Sue Gilmour, Christian Huet, Jim Rockwell, Anna Schlueter, Dan Schlueter, Julia Selwyn, Michael Steen, Helen Wheeler, Jeanette Wheeler, Nathan Yessler (Colonial Re-enactors)

Review: Another confident entry from the Starship Farragut team, it’s hard to look at For Want Of A Nail and spot anything major that screams “only the second episode produced”. There are minor issues, sure – it wouldn’t be a fan production without them – but the degree of polish here is impressive. The script demonstrates a sophisticated knowledge of the era of history being recreated, and the production makes a wise move by involving people who recreate that time period on their own time. Even if you’re not crazy about a “historical” adventure, you have to admire the shrewdness of that move – you instantly get performers, period costumes and props, a certain degree of authenticity, and a real feel of local color that you just don’t get in Hollywood.

Starship Farragut - For Want Of A NailIf there’s one thing that hammers Nail, though – and I seem to recall making this same observation of The Captaincy – it’s pacing, pacing, pacing. Though it’s an improvement over that pilot episode, there are still myriad pacing problems. There are still folks here who sound like they’re reading lines and waiting for cues, and there are still occasional awkward pauses that seem to have come about in the editing stage. They’re getting better at it, but there’s still room for further improvement. That the “episode” runs neck-and-neck with some of the Star Trek feature films in running time brings three words to mind: tighten it up. (Please note that I wouldn’t be making this criticism if I hadn’t spent most of my adult life editing video for a living.) There are a few oddities directorially as well, with a handful of examples of very strange shot-framing that occasionally cuts off the face of a character who’s speaking. And honestly, the hinting-at-the-origins-of-the-Mirror-Universe coda did nothing for me. I didn’t need the story to go there to make my enjoyment of it complete.

But the good news is that there are so many other details to admire. The video quality is an overall improvement and the sound mixing is top-notch – while Farragut has no qualms about modernizing the look of their exterior space scenes, the strict adherence to classic series sound effects lends it a certain stamp of Trek authenticity. But even more than that is that they appear to have built a set for the alien planet locale, and a good set at that, complete with classic Trek-esque “flowing multicolored lights behind a panel” alien technology. If these scenes were shot with blue screen or green screen, then the compositing is the most seamless I’ve yet seen a fan production pull off. If the sets are practical, however, then bravo. That, along with some great (if slightly blue-tinted) location shooting, elevates Nail to a new, more professional level. The musical score is also one of the best I’ve heard from a fan production, very appropriate and effective, and it can be obtained from the composer’s web site.

Characterization continues to be a strong suit for Farragut – for the most part. The spiky relationship between the ship’s science officer and chief engineer is interesting, but in a couple of places descends into stretch-the-scene-out bickering without benefitting either character. The ship’s doctor makes a showing in Nail as well, and she’s equal-opportunity, seemingly ready to bite anyone’s head off. By setting a fan film in the 23rd century, one is able to keep things from getting boring by setting it in the era of the less-than-perfect, occasionally disharmonious Kirk era (as opposed to the nearly conflict-free 24th century), but there’s a fine line between real character development and random bickering for the sake of grafting drama onto the proceedings. The ship’s security officer (and his subordinates) make a good showing here, but the scene is really stolen by George Washington (as played by co-writer and director Mark Hildebrandt) and the period characters. The actors portraying the aliens do a pretty good job of summoning the original Trek’s “aloof one-off superior alien race who will never be seen again” vibe.

The pros outweigh the cons with For Want Of A Nail, and it’s quite enjoyable. The really nifty thing about Starship Farragut is that they came out of the starting gate strong and showed marked improvement – I’m eager to see the next adventure.